Gathering Storms (Penguin Random House 2022) by Kerry McGinnis is set in the Gulf country’s monsoon season, and while the drama and mystery of the story gradually unfold, it is this harsh, unforgiving, brutal climate and environment that dominates this novel of secrets and banished memories.
Penny Carter lives a quiet life in the rural area of Southbend, running a nursery with her father-in-law, Angus. Their lives are rudely interrupted by the arrival of pre-teen Lisa, the daughter of Penny’s ex (dead) husband, whose aunt drops Lisa off at Angus and Penny’s door with a bag of clothes and no forwarding address. It’s a complicated family situation, and has been for several generations, with parents abandoning their children and spouses leaving their partners. No-one is prepared for the complex domestic situation in which they find themselves.
The wet season creeps inexorably closer, culminating in a massive cyclone that unearths a skeleton buried next to – but not actual IN – the local cemetery. As Penny gets caught up in unravelling the mystery, she and her friend Flint begin to question other local disappearances and discoveries, leading to doubt about everything Penny thought she knew about her own childhood and her mother’s death years earlier.
McGinnis writes with evocative experience of rural Australia: the rugged landscape, the shifting seasons, the isolated environment and the enigmatic characters who often end up escaping to (or staying their whole lives in) outback communities.